Former head of FEMA explains how to be prepared for hurricane season in SWFL

Reporter: Lois Thome
Published: Updated:

To get a sense of what leaders are up against, we turned to the man who was in charge of Florida’s emergency responses during our busiest hurricane seasons on record. Craig Fugate later went on to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and he knows more about disaster preparation than just about anyone.

Fugate reminds us that we’re going to have COVID-19 all through the 2020 hurricane season, so as a result, he has two new things on his mind.

How do you shelter large groups of people safely and bring in responders from across the country, like utility workers? He says,” it could potentially be contributing to the spread of this.”

Shelters are an obvious concern for the general population. We asked Fugate if he would be concerned as an emergency manager that people would be reluctant to go to a public shelter when they need to.

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“Yeah and this is the thing we have to be very clear on if you live in an evacuation zone COVID or no COVID,” Fugate said. “You still will need to evacuate if the order is given. But if you’ve listened to our message over the decades we’re not really changing much. We’ve always told you to evacuate the shortest distances, go to friends and families, hotels and motels, and as a last resort public shelters”

Just be sure to add masks, gloves, and sanitizer to the hurricane shelter kit you bring with you.

Fugate says when it comes to making plans, there are two big things, “First of all, before the storms get here, buy flood insurance. I think too many people in Florida under-appreciate the flood risk. they think if they’re not in that special risk hazard area which we call flood zone. It’s really a misnomer, that you don’t need flood insurance.”

“I’ve been to too many disasters the at have flooded areas that have never seen water before, especially when you start talking about the rainfall like we got with Hurricane Harvey. You start measuring rainfall in feet there are not many places in Florida that won’t flood.”

“Second thing if you are ordered to evacuate – Evacuate. Social distancing doesn’t mean stay in your home under the threat of storm surge”

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Fugate’s family prepares just like yours. He now lives in Gainesville and is constantly reminding people that hurricane season won’t be postponed by a pandemic, “It’s going to add new challenges but we can manage this if we plan ahead.”

Fugate is now working as an emergency management consultant, so don’t be surprised if you see him advising state and federal governments this hurricane season.

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